Why Your Voice Matters, Part 2 – You Had Me at Hello = It’s SCIENCE. [Episode 3]
(transcript) Hey, welcome to episode number 3 of Voicing Your Brand, where we will talk about all things business, branding, and using your voice for success. Today, more about WHY your voice matters. Apparently, it’s science.
A few years ago when I was leaving my job at a university to go full time into voiceover, I was given the task of helping to interview my replacement. We had several applications come in, and once we reviewed those and chose the top candidates, it was time to continue the process with the telephone interview. That’s right – we had nothing to go on but the job application, a resume, and the person’s voice. And let me tell you, that was quite an experience. As my manager and I started this process, we were absolutely floored by the number of applicants we disqualified because they either couldn’t put a cohesive sentence together, or they mumbled, or talked too fast so that we couldn’t hear their very important words. Sometimes, they just sounded like they didn’t even want This process of a telephone interview is often the first hurdle to overcome when interviewing for a highly prized position in a company.
So, I’m just gonna come out and say it: you are being judged for your voice.
Okay, you know – there have been voice coaches since probably the beginning of modern business- vocal coaches to help you with speech, singing, breathing, vocal health, and so on – so there’s been this need to help people have a better voice, especially for business for a very long time. I mean, have you seen Singing in the Rain? The whole premise of that movie was that it was difficult for some actors and actresses to make the transition from silent films to talkies because their voices were hard to listen to. Somehow, we just knew that if we improved certain things about our voice and our speech, we would be better heard.
Now, we’ve all heard that it takes 7 seconds to make a good first impression. Okay, that may be true about your appearance and your mannerisms, but when it comes to your voice – that time shrinks down to about one second. Yeah. You are being judged. I’ve always assumed that appearance played the biggest role in how people form opinions about us, but according to recent research from the University of Glasgow, our brains make strong and unconscious judgments about people based on the way they speak. Now, I am a researcher at heart – so reading this information was like music to my ears. Let me nerd out on this with you for a minute or two –
Picture this – University of Glasgow, in Scotland. They’ve brought in 64 people, both men and women, and recorded them reading a paragraph that contained the word HELLO. Then each recording was edited so that they extracted just that one word, Hello. They then had 320 participants listen to those Hellos and match them with a personality trait such as trustworthiness, aggressiveness, confidence, dominance, warmth, and so on. I think there were ten choices altogether.
What the researchers found was that the participants largely agreed on which voice matched which personality trait. One male voice was overwhelmingly voted the least trustworthy, The pitch of the untrustworthy voice was much lower than the male deemed most trustworthy. Keep in mind that it didn’t matter if that was TRUE about this participant – but, just by his voice alone, people judged him as being not trustworthy.
Now, the speculation on that is it’s probably because a higher pitched male voice is closer to the natural pitch of a female, making the men sound less aggressive and friendlier than the lower male voices.
Another interesting finding is that what makes females sound more trustworthy is whether their voices rise or fall at the end of the word, “Probably the trustworthy female, when she drops her voice at the end, is showing a degree of certainty and so can be trusted.”
Keep in mind, again, that it didn’t matter if the assessment of the person based on their voice was TRUE. What mattered is that the results were consistent and that the person was perceived to have a certain personality trait just by one word. Hello.
There’s a famous line from the movie Jerry Maguire – “you had me at hello.” Seriously, those screenwriters were on to something. In fact, this phenomena has been called The Jerry Maguire Effect, for that reason.
Now, the data from that study is being further dissected by other universities to find out exactly what makes up the sound of being trustworthy – should be interesting. And there are some other studies, including one at Yale University, which showed that it’s easier for people to comprehend emotions from a voice alone, rather than watching a video where they can see facial expressions and body language…
… but we are not going to overthink this. Your voice is part of your genetic makeup. Your blueprint. In many cases, it is what it is – but just as you can do exercises to enhance your physical appearance, you can do the same to enhance your voice. No heavy lifting required.
Now, I realize that this new information might terrify you – or it might make you very happy. Maybe you’ve been wondering why your message isn’t being heard. Maybe this is the first time you’ve ever thought about how your voice might be holding you back. From that promotion… from building your audience on social media… even from being heard by your kids or at your job. We will get into the topic of self-assessment in a future episode, but for now it’s so important to be aware of what people might be assuming about you based on hearing your voice. Your voice sets up expectations for how you’re going to behave, how funny you are, how high your energy is, and even how accessible or believable you are. This mental image-making is based solely on the sound of your voice and the energy you present. Wouldn’t you like your message to be the most powerful it can be?
So, I’m gonna give you a little challenge now – and some homework. Ask 3 or 4 friends or family members what they think when they hear your voice. Be sure to tell them to be honest and that you are on a journey to improve the way you communicate, and that you are learning how to use your voice for success.
I’d love to hear your responses – what do you think is most important for you to work on? I’d really love to know, and it will help me plan future episodes of this podcast. Would you send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know?
Anyway – thanks for joining me today – now that you know the science behind using your voice for success – isn’t it going to be much easier to make yourself the guinea pig and experiment with your message and delivery? All the articles I’ve mentioned will be linked in the show notes – just go to tamiromani.com/vyb003 and you’ll see them!
This has been fun – I’ll catch you again next time!
Mentioned in today’s episode:
- University of Glasgow study (Jerry Maguire Effect)
- You had me at Hello: NPR article
- Yale Study: Voice-only Communication Enhances Empathic Accuracy
- Yale Insights article about the study
- How can I help you? Send me an email: email@example.com
- Find me on all social media @tamiromani